Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali

Chryssa Vardea-Mavromichali



Chryssa Vardea Mavromichalis, known as Chryssa, was born in 1933 in Athens. In 1953, she worked for a short period for the aid of the earthquake victims of Zakynthos but she also moved to Paris in order to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière (1953-1954) before moving to San Francisco to continue her studies at the California School of Fine Arts (1954-1955). She then settled in New York, where she begun to create the Cycladic Books series, made by white plaster cast of cardboard boxes whose white simplicity and minute foldings alluded to cycladic idols. Around the same period, Chryssa created paintings and wall-mounted installations made of metal or plaster imprinted with embossed letters and symbols. In the early 1960s, influenced by the vibrant urban landscape of New York, and in particular by China Town and Time Square, she pioneered by adding neon lighting as part of her artworks. One of her most esteemed works of the period is the monumental The Gates to Times Square, 1966, a three meter tall sculpture of blue neon, steel and plexiglass in which the viewer can immerse for an experience of symbols and lighting. She collaborated with Betty Parsons Gallery, where she mounted her first solo exhibition, with PACE Gallery, as well as the art dealer Leo Castelli, while she realized solo exhibitions or participated in group exhibitions in major American museums such as MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She also participated in the most important institutional exhibitions in Europe, such as Documenta in Kassel (1968, 1977) and in the Venice Biennale in 1972. In the 1980s, she started using cellular aluminum along with neon lighting to wall-mounted sculptural installations based on English and Chinese writing, often titled after famous metropolitan streets and squares (such as “Mott Street”, “Piccadilly Circus” and “Chinatown”). Between the years 1992 and 1994, she moved back in Athens and she renovated an old cinema into her workshop where she created a new series of artworks made from a combination of aluminum along with neon lighting and sound recordings captured from the city of Athens. This collection was titled Cinema Oasis and was exhibited in Leo Castelli Gallery in 1996. In 2007, Chryssa returned permanently in Athens, where she remained until her death in December of 2013. Her work can be found in private and public collections as well as important museums such as the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki, National Gallery – Alexandros Soutzos Museum and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens.